Joining the medical field would look quite different than joining the armed services – or so one would think. That is until COVID-19 happened and brought the two worlds closer together. Stephanie Merritt is one phenomenal woman who has served in both worlds with a passion hardly able to replicate. As a military veteran, Stephanie was used to this scenario. Everything must be done with extra precaution, and with one goal in mind – the health and safety of others.
Stephanie had maintained strong roots in Colorado despite moving around the world with her family to serve her country. She has been to Texas, Kentucky and Holland – to name a few. Her husband also has a strong military background and the DNA was passed on to their children.
In the Spring of 2019 there was a different passion settling in her heart. Stephanie decided to enroll in the Aims Community College phlebotomy program. It just made sense to attend Aims because of the location and affordability. And before she knew it, Stephanie was on her way to achieving her goal. She completed the courses studying from February 2019 until May 2019 and then took an internship in June. That was all the preparation she needed to prepare her for the pending future. She was only in her new career field for 9 months after graduation when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world with fierce impact.
Doing her due diligence, Stephanie didn’t even flinch at the news and instinctively
works to help others. It had been ingrained in her since she was young. When asked
what drives her passion, Stephanie replied with, “It’s just the way my mom raised
me. Do unto others as you would have others do to you. And any chance I get to assist
somebody, then I will do it if it’s within my powers.” She was taught this from a
young age and stewarded her passion very well through the years. She’s even passed
down these virtues through her children. When asked about her greatest accomplishment
in life, she proudly states it’s her two boys who bring her pride and joy. Also serving
in the military, her sons have been raised with “a good head on their shoulders.”
But this pandemic hasn’t been easy on them either. In a family where one serves on
the front lines during a pandemic, it often means isolation from other friends and
family (as we all have experienced). Stephanie said it’s been difficult. She can see
her son from 6 feet away, but can’t wrap her arms around him. It’s a tough battle,
but it’s worth the fight to save lives.
Stephanie currently works at Banner Fort Collins Medical Center on the Lab Team. She says the respiratory team are truly he front lines workers during this pandemic. They have to be on ready to fight 24/7 and really are the ones who deserve the most credit. However, it takes everyone doing their part to truly make things better from here on.
Every day things change in regards to new legislation or protocols, and it’s learning to adjust and “get used to the new normal until we get back to the normal norm.” She says in the midst of the chaos, there is hope. She says her best advice is, “Stay positive and stay strong. Things will get better. Whether you are in the medical field or a different field, just stay strong, stay positive, and do what you can to help others.” Never before has there been such a timely phrase to say so much with such little words.
Thank you Stephanie and healthcare team for all you are doing! We are so proud to be part of such an amazing community. May we all “stay strong, stay positive, and do what you can to help others” during this time.
Dulcé is one of a kind when it comes to serving others, and understanding what it means to find a passion and see it through to completion.
Immediately upon graduating from High School in 2010, Dulcé joined the United States Army. Unbeknown to her, this passion for serving others would be something that would drive her motivation and career in years to come. During her time in the military, Dulcé enrolled at Aims taking the Advancing Academic Achievement class to understand how she can succeed in college once she made her career decision. However, she did not make any education decisions until after her time in the military.
In 2016, she had some important decisions to make. Her enlistment had just ended and she found herself back in Greeley. Not knowing what direction to take, she returned to Aims. She enrolled in some science classes, which became her passion.
The small class sizes and amazing instructors were just what she needed to help cultivate her dreams. She loved having smaller classes that enabled her to build relationships with her classmates and develop lifelong friendships and connections. Dr. Sarkis and Dr. Mayeda were instrumental in helping Dulcé find her path through education. Dr. Mayeda even took the time to explain the difficult subjects and was there whenever she needed extra tutoring.
During this time, Dulcé also took a CNA course and found she loved helping people! This propelled her to apply for the Nursing program in the Spring of 2017. She was accepted into the program and was thrilled to be part of this community. Wanting to expand her reach beyond nursing, Dulcé joined and soon became president of the National Society of Leadership and Success, an organization at Aims that helps people discover and achieve their goals. She became a supplemental instructor for anatomy and physiology. She also volunteered for a SCUBA diving program at Trident Veteran Adaptive Programs. Here she checked veterans for physical issues that would prevent them from having a safe diving experience. On top of all this, she also extended her contract with the Army Reserves.
After getting to know more people that year, Dulcé was encouraged to apply for a position on the Student Government Association and she became president! Dulcé said,
“It was one of the hardest years but I learned a lot about being in a leadership role,what that means, and the responsibility that comes with it. I was very lucky to always have support to reach my goals at Aims.”
While at Aims, Dulcé received the Frank A. Berger Memorial Scholarship which allowed her to finish her nursing education.
After two years of studious labor and lots of sleepless nights, Dulcé’s hard work paid off. She passed her National Council Licensing Examination on the first try and soon started a job at Northern Colorado Medical Center in the Emergency Department. She then went on to UC Health Memorial Hospital working in their Spine/Ortho/Trauma Unit.
In September of 2019, Dulcé left the military to focus mainly on nursing and pursuing her passion full-time.
Currently, Dulcé is attending the Chamberlain School of Nursing online and will be completing her Bachelors of Science in Nursing next month! We are excited to see her success, and champion her on as she saves lives and takes off into higher levels within her career!
Tia was born and raised in Greeley, CO, and she recently graduated from Aims Community
College. When she was younger, nobody believed that she would graduate from high school,
much less be successful in college. Tia came from a broken home and was labeled “troubled.”
When Tia was 13 years old, she had an altercation with her mother that landed her in court. After 7 months, the judge on the case proclaimed that Tia was not guilty. Those words, “Not guilty,’” meant so much to Tia that it was a turning point. People who knew her said that she was more likely to end up in jail than get a diploma. She suddenly realized that she had possibilities, and that she had some control over her life. With a new focus, Tia was determined to finish high school. Then she enrolled at Aims in a Horticulture Management program.
College was exciting for Tia. She was in charge, excited, and the world opened up for her. She was studying things that were interesting to her.
Tia worked at Cottonwood Florist and a private farm while she was a full-time student at Aims. She was motivated to get the education that she needed to create a good life for herself. When she came to the point where she needed a botany class that wasn’t available at Aims, she entered into a transfer agreement with CSU and took the class there.
One day, soon after Tia had celebrated her 20th birthday, she came home to find her father unconscious and not breathing. In spite of her efforts, and the efforts of the medical professionals, he father died. Her father had been loving and supportive of Tia, so losing him was a shock. Tia’s response to this tragedy was to became even more determined to finish her degree program.
While Tia continued to study Horticulture, she found time to pursue other interests as well. She has studied fashion design on the side, and is proud of her clothing designs. Tia has incorporated that interest into her horticulture by envisioning clothing that is made from hemp, a natural fiber that is much more efficient to grow than cotton.
Tia responded to challenges and adversity with increased determination. Her tenacity is commendable, but without her openness to accepting help from others, she would not have been able to reach her goals. She could have been a burden to society, but she decided to turn her life around and become an asset, and scholarships have made it possible for her innovation to thrive.
Tia is currently attending CSU and continuing her horticulture management studies and fashion design. She appreciates the scholarships that made it possible for her to pursue her dreams at Aims, and is thankful for the people that donated toward her scholarships.
Tia’s advice to younger people about creating their future is: “Know that you are worth all that you desire, and there is support out there for you, but it’s up to you to know yourself and get comfortable with sharing your story and who you are.”
“Leadership is not having power over people, it’s being involved in your community and taking care of others” - Kim Joiner
Kim Joined Aims in 1995 as the Assistant Director for the Childcare Center then in operation. When the center was closed in 2010 Kim did not want to leave Aims; as a result, she transitioned to a Financial Aid Advisor. “I’ll never forget this. The last week at the childcare center, President Dr. Liddell personally came and checked on me three times. She also sent me a letter about how important I was as an employee and praised my positive attitude.” Kim used this opportunity to learn and grow, as she has always loved a challenge and the chance to problem solve.
In this new role, Kim decided she wanted to pursue her associate’s degree at Aims. After a semester, Kim was accepted into Phi Theta Kappa, the honors fraternity. Her first reaction was to disregard it, thinking “this isn’t for me.” That changed when she met with Ron Fay in Student Life; he told her, “Yes, Kim – this is for you!” It was a pivotal moment for Kim. Through Ron’s urging, she ended up running for a PTK office, even though she thought she wasn’t smart enough. It turned out she was more than smart enough! She served as Vice President for one year and President for two prompting Aims to send her to the international PTK conference; an incredible experience for her.
“When you’re sitting in a room with 4000 honors students from all over the world and you’re one of them… it was overwhelming because I was good enough to be there.”
In 2011 Kim completed her Associates of Arts and thought she was finished going to school for good. The Universe, however, had more plans for her. One of her coworkers, Leah Shaer, was attending Colorado State University as a non-traditional student and was so enthusiastic about it that Kim caught the bug too. Six months later she was enrolled at CSU global campus.
Halfway through her journey at CSU Kim was diagnosed with breast cancer. With this devastating news, Kim made a decision to view it as, “just another obstacle to get through.” Using her education as both motivation and diversion Kim threw herself into her studies and graduated cum laude with a degree in Organizational Leadership while continuing to work full time at Aims! During this chaotic time Kim was grateful for her colleagues at Aims who rallied around her and supported her every step of the way. Her husband Robert, her family and friend, Vicki Lovato, convinced her that she was stronger than the cancer and after four surgeries and many radiation treatments, Kim was deemed cancer free.
After obtaining her bachelor’s degree Kim was glad to be (again), “done with school!” However, a few months later as she was hosting a Financial Aid table she just happened to meet the people hosting the Colorado Christian University table and within a month she enrolled there. She received her master’s degree in Organization Leadership from CCU in 2018 and felt it was the hardest thing she had ever done. She has since presented her master’s thesis at a national conference and has also published her work from this time.
Back in 2017, Kim decided to make the move from Financial Aid to Recruiting as she wanted to share her passion for Aims with prospective students and help the community. Today Kim is working closely with the Immigrant and Refugee Center in Greeley to help students learn about the many opportunities available at Aims. She is also serving as the President of the Executive Board of Directors on the Greeley Dream Team and was recently accepted as a 2019 Leadership Northern Colorado cohort. Kim was also the recipient of the 2013 “Live United Award” presented by the United Way of Weld County for forming a committee to initiate a resource fair that was held four times over two years; a prestigious distinction in and for Weld County.
Kim’s story is and continues to be an inspiration. Aims is certainly proud to have her as part of the family and will continue to support her in all that she does. When asked what it is that she would like to share with people who may be facing similar difficulties, Kim states, "Life will always put obstacles in our path. It is what we do with those obstacles that matter, so use every opportunity to learn, grow, celebrate and be thankful." Thank you Kim.
In 2015, Elizabeth Stuart was studying at Aims for Nursing and Erland Campbell was studying to be a ceramics teacher.
Elizabeth worked in the Ceramics Studio as a work study. Since Erland was studying to be a ceramics educator, he was often in the studio. Although Elizabeth couldn’t stand him at first, this all changed when he came to her rescue – sort of. One day in 2016, when Elizabeth was throwing on the wheel, the pot she was making started to cave in. Just like in a romantic comedy, he came up behind her and saved her creation. They went to lunch in between classes and two years later, they were married!
Although their areas of study have changed, their love for each other hasn’t faltered. Elizabeth now works teaching young children and Erland plans to attend the University of Northern Colorado in the fall for Business.
Although Stacey and Daniel did not meet at Aims, it has brought them closer together. Stacey began as a student and worked her way up to a full-time Staff Associate for EMS and Fire Science Department.
Due to Stacey’s love for Aims, she suggested that Daniel apply for a position and he has also worked his way to becoming a full-time Equipment Mechanic for Facilities and Operations.
Stacey graduated from Aims in 2011 with an associates in Liberal Arts and has now completed a Master’s degree in Health Care Administration and Management. Daniel began taking courses in the Automotive program in 2017 and is set to graduate in December 2019.
We both have amazing supervisors and coworkers that we are blessed to work with on a daily basis. I have to say that a majority of our success has to do with Aims and the opportunities that Aims has provided for us.
“Aims is such an important part of our lives and we will be here for a long time to come, hoping to pay forward what Aims has done for us. The Tekansiks are here to stay!”
Meg decided to go to Aims Community College to finish her Associates degree and in 1995, she signed up for a hiking class. She expected to learn to hike, but not to fall in love.
Dion, originally from upstate New York, moved to Greeley for a job with Banner Health. After taking an Aims hiking class the previous summer, he collaborated with the instructor, bringing his medical background to the curriculum. Little did he know that this course would change his own course.
Although they interacted during the class, it wasn’t until the final hike of the semester that Meg and Dion got to know each other. In order to reach the top by sunrise, the class started at the trail head at 1 a.m. the Perseid meteor shower lit the dark night sky that evening. On the way back down, Meg and Dion spent the hours-long hike talking and discovered that they had a lot in common. That wasn’t enough for Meg, so she Dion and asked him out for pizza the same day. Their first official date was August 12th when they hiked the 14’ers, Lincoln, Democrat, and Bross near Breckenridge. The day after, Dion sent a dozen red roses to Meg.
They continued to date through Meg’s completion of her Bachelor’s of English from the University of Northern Colorado in 1997. They were married the day after her graduation. Naturally, their honeymoon included hiking in Estes Park!
Meg went on to achieve a graduate degree in English from UNC and now works at Aims Community College as a Faculty Coach, in Faculty Teaching & Learning Center. Dion currently works for UCHealth as an Occupational Health nurse. They have been married for nearly 22 years and they celebrated their 20th anniversary in Ireland on an adventure tour.
G. Mark received his AA in Liberal Arts from Aims and began working in the Biofeedback Lab in 1981 before moving over to Media Services as a Graphic Designer. Laura started working at Aims Community College in 1991.
Although G. Mark recalls meeting Laura at a college event in a previous year, he never had a good excuse to come visit her at her office in the Farm House – a then-desolate part of the Greeley campus. It wasn’t until 1998 that G. Mark found his opportunity to see her again, when Laura volunteered to serve on College Council. Then a shared governance committee of faculty, staff, and administrators, G. Mark was already serving on College Council and was eager to help Laura "learn the ropes." Young and clueless, she says, Laura had no idea he had ulterior motives until he asked her out a few weeks later. They kept the romance under wraps for a long time, as G. Mark took on the Staff Association presidency and Laura became the Vice President.
One day in 2000, while waiting to go into dinner with students, G. Mark recalled to Laura that his colleague suggested making an “honest woman” of her. Laura responded, “Well, I wouldn’t mind.” G. Mark said,
Did you just propose to me?
Laura said, “I think I did!”
They had kept their relationship so quiet that very soon after, G. Mark told the Staff Association board "Laura's going to get married!" and the group asked, "To who?!"
Laura and G. Mark were married in 2001 and they honeymooned in Estes Park. They both still work at Aims Community College, Laura as an Institutional Research Data Specialist and G. Mark as a part-time instructor of photography. G. Mark also runs a photography business out Artworks in Loveland, just around the corner from Aims’ Loveland campus. They have been together for nearly 20 years and are both grateful to Aims for bringing them together.
Jaime was born in Denver, but grew up in Fort Lupton and graduated from Fort Lupton High School. After graduation, Jaime was all set to start at Colorado Heights University, but due to some complications regarding financial aid and scholarships, he was unable to attend. This was the only school Jaime applied to and it was too late to apply for any other universities. This is when his high school principal recommended applying to Aims.
As a first generation student and the eldest of his brothers, Jaime felt he was the role model for his siblings and needed to pave a path before them. After his acceptance into Aims, Jaime qualified for the BUENO CAMP Scholarship Program, which paid for his first year of tuition, books, and fees.
Studying the liberal arts at Fort Lupton’s campus, Jaime was offered a position at the front office and learned he loved helping students. Being one of two front office people that spoke Spanish, Jaime found that his skillset and personality lent itself to helping students, as the majority of Fort Lupton students are Spanish-speaking. Jaime had previously held jobs at a law firm, a green house, and at a restaurant, but none of those compared to the passion he found for higher education. His peers relied on him because he had knowledge of financial aid, advising, registration, and navigating the system. “It was just amazing learning the whole process,” he said.
While studying at Aims, there were a few people that made a big impact on him: Dr. Robert Garcia, Natalia Delgado, and Mary Gabriel. Of Dr. Garcia he said,
“He was the one who influenced me the most. He gave me all of these ideas, but he never forced them on me. [Dr. Garcia] said, ‘This is what you can do, but it’s up to you.’ He helped me find my own path.”
In 2017, Jaime graduated from Aims. Initially majoring in international business, Jaime transferred to the University of Northern Colorado while continuing to work at Aims’ Fort Lupton campus.
When Jaime’s mother was taken to the emergency room for kidney stones, it was then that he decided to take a different educational path. With the help of a social worker at the hospital, they were able to reduce a medical bill of $19,000 to $2,000. The social worker’s help made a huge impact on Jaime’s family and he realized that day that he wanted to be a social worker. After that, he changed his major to Sociology with an emphasis on minorities and underrepresented groups.
For the time being, Jaime wants to stay working at Aims while finishing his bachelor’s degree. He has since changed roles to working in the Learning Commons where he still is able to help students navigate the campus and learning resources.
“I’ve gone through the process where you feel lost and you don’t know what you’re doing, and you have those people who guide you. Those people make the little impact that help you throughout your career… If I give to the community or the world, the world will give [back]. Kind of like good karma.”
There’s an old saying, “It’s not about the destination, but more the journey.” That could not be more true for Stacey Tekansik, Staff Associate for EMS, Criminal Justice and Fire Science. She started at Aims as a student in 1997, but decided to drop out after struggling financially, being pregnant at 17 and surviving an abusive relationship. Shortly after, she ended up taking advantage of a CNA program at Kenton Manor where she worked for almost five years. Time went on and one day in 2009, something clicked.
[I] decided that I wanted something better, something more. My dream was to go back to college, but I didn’t think it was achievable. I didn’t think I was worthy. However, with the support of my mom, my husband, and family I made the decision to go back to college.”
For her family and for herself, Stacey took control of her education and went back to Aims Community College as a non-traditional student. Stacey began a work study job in the Emergency Medical Services and Fire Science programs with Jill Sandin, a role that would shape the rest of her career. She had found her place and her people.
Like many students, Stacey took a variety of classes to figure out where her interests lay. Although a pre-nursing student, she took psychology and criminal justice classes because she had found a love of the human condition. Due to her declared major, though, financial aid could not cover the cost. With the burden of tuition back on her shoulders, Stacey cried herself to sleep every night. She thought she would have quit… again.
But this time, Nancy Gray, Executive Director of Financial Aid, came to the rescue. “[She] called me and asked me to come meet her in her office. She sat me down and told me she found funds that would cover that money that financial aid did not cover. I left that office crying [I was] so happy. Because of her, I was able to continue my education… She was an angel that day and I hope she knows how much she changed my life and my outlook on people who were willing to invest in me.”
In 2011, Stacey graduated with an A.A. in Liberal Arts and transferred to the University of Northern Colorado to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services with a minor in Sociology. Soon after she began studying at UNC, Aims posted a part-time administrative position in the EMS and Fire Science programs. Stacey jumped at the opportunity to be back at Aims with her chosen family, and among them was one of her biggest influencers, Randy Souther, the director of the programs.
Everything that my life has turned into for the better is all due to being here at Aims… I can honestly say that Aims has changed my life.”
Stacey graduated from UNC in 2013, but that wasn’t enough for her. She thought, “I made it this far, might as well keep going!” One year later, Stacey enrolled at CSU Global and has since graduated with a Master’s degree in Health Care Administration and Management.
Stacey’s husband Daniel also works at Aims as a fleet mechanic, and although he thought he would never go to college, he is currently enrolled in the Automotive Program at Aims.
Stacey’s journey to Aims may have been a little delayed and full of difficult challenges. But it is that journey and struggle that has shaped her into the woman she is today. The hardships have given Stacey a deeper appreciation for community college and higher education. The journey grew her passion for Aims.
In response to her future plans, Stacey says, “I plan to stay at Aims for the rest of my career, if possible. Aims changed my life and I love being here – I love interacting with students, I love who I work for and who I work alongside. This is the best company to work for and I plan to invest myself into Aims for as long as I can. Education is my passion so I will probably continue to educate myself as much as I can. You can never stop learning and that is my plan.”
I was raised on a farm in Eastern Colorado and played football, basketball, and track throughout high school. I always loved sports and discussing various angles and aspects of the games. It was on the tractor where my love for radio grew, as I would listen to Dave Logan and other sports hosts discuss my favorite teams.
In 2005, I moved to Greeley to attend UNC. It was a lot of change for a small town kid, so keeping up with grades and a part time job forced me to make a decision about school. I needed something I could afford, so I transferred to Aims. It was at Aims where I received the tools needed to work in radio - the industry I love. I began an internship at KFKA in 2008 and worked a sound board for a local afternoon show. Later that year, I switched to sales and eventually became the sales and programming manager. In 2012, I started my own local sports show experiment, “The Hull Show,” weekdays from 11am-1pm, which is now a staple in Northern Colorado. On a daily basis, I interview coaches and players from the Broncos, Rockies, and Nuggets, as well as from Colorado State University, University of Northern Colorado, and the University of Colorado. In 2016, I became the General Manager for KFKA. I love my job and the people involved at KFKA.
I have been married for more than six years to an amazing woman, Brittany Hull. She gives me the confidence I need to continue to grow in my industry. She herself is an entrepreneur and has grown an amazing business that inspires me to be even better in my career. We have a seven-month-old son named Gavin Warren Hull. He is the light of our lives. In 2016, my wife convinced me to go back to UNC to finish my bachelor’s degree. I am proud to say I did just that in the summer of 2017, six months before my son was born.
I’m originally from Longmont, CO.
I was at Aims from the Fall of 2014 through the Spring of 2017 when I graduated with an Associates of Applied Science for Professional Pilot.
I decided to study here at Aims due to the excellent reputation that the Aviation department has in the aviation industry.
I love how close everyone is. As a student, I felt like I was part of the family and I continue to feel that way as full time staff.
I was very pleased with how dedicated all of the instructors are to their students. I always felt that my instructors were there because they wanted to be. It’s an amazing feeling to know that your instructors are there to help you out because it’s their passion rather than just a paycheck.
I am currently the Flight Operations Coordinator for the Aims Flight Training Center.
I chose to work for Aims because of the feeling of belonging that is intertwined into the culture at Aims. Also, the fact that everyone I work with wants to be here with me and for the students! I love seeing the students succeed!
My favorite part of my work is being able to hang out at the airport daily watching students perfect their skills in our fleet of aircraft. I have the pleasure of instructing part time which allows me to get out and fly many times per week. My office view is ever changing.
Enjoy every minute of your training/early career because your career - and life in general - is about the journey, not the destination. I try to live by this mantra. I keep goals in mind, but enjoy every minute of where I’m at in the moment because in the end, all we really have is the present.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Colorado Springs, but grew up in Vernal, Utah.
When did you attend Aims? What did you study?
I began my classes at Aims in August, 2012. I studied Psychology.
Why did you decide to study at Aims?
I had recently been divorced and my mother had just died. I knew I needed something to ground me, as I was not sure what I was going to do with my life. I decided to become a college student and applied to Aims.
What makes Aims special to you?
Aims was my safe landing place when I needed something to ground me and make me feel safe. Aims wrapped its arms around me, brought me into this amazing family, and taught me how to be the person I was meant to be.
Who or what influenced you most during your time as a student?
Rachel Veretto! If it was not for her, I would not be where I am today. She saw something in me that I didn't see in myself.
What is your current role at Aims? Why did you decide to pursue a career at Aims?
I am a Senior Enrollment Advisor in the Office of Student Enrollment. This is home to me, this is my family, and I wanted to help someone the way Aims helped me.
What is your favorite part of your work?
By far the people I work with on a daily basis. I have met so many amazing people who I have learned from and grown with. I work with fun, amazing people who I not only consider my co-workers and colleagues, but also my friends.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
To go after what you want, because you never know what you can do if you don't try.
When and why did you decide to study at Aims?
I attended Aims from 2009-2011. I decided to study at Aims because of the welding program. I had been doing some welding at my previous job and it was something that I enjoyed doing. There is something about flipping the hood down and getting into the zone once you strike the arc. Once you start welding, all the accountability lands on the guy running the bead - I think that is one of my favorite aspects of the process.
Did you pursue further education? If so, where? What did you study?
I knew that I didn’t want to stop studying welding, so before I graduated from Aims I applied to Ohio State University. They have a Welding Engineering program that is the only ABET accredited program in the country. I received an acceptance letter before I finished up at Aims, so the transition went well. I studied even more math, thermo dynamics, material science, design and simulation, and lots of weld metallurgy.
How do you describe your career path since graduation?
My career path since graduating from Aims has been very diverse. However, since graduating from Aims several opportunities opened and I ended up in a field that I never thought I would be working in (Medical). Aims provided me with a foundation that I was able to use as I continued through school and into the workforce. I still use the basic welding principles that I learned through Aims as a method of implementing weld processes, weld inspection, and weld criteria for building implantable devices. Although I use much different welding processes from what I learned at Aims, the fundamentals are the same. Currently, I am working on welding a feature onto the end of a battery that would allow a doctor to hold onto the battery with tooling and screw the cell into the heart. These are the types of projects that I like working on because it is up to me to develop a weld that will not fail, or the consequences would be catastrophic.
What is your favorite or funny memory of Aims?
My most favorite memory of Aims was the people I was able to learn from and work with, especially in the welding department. I had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from some great people. My experience with the instructors at Aims was very good. They were always willing to help and seemed to have a genuine concern of not only my future, but my classmates as well.
In what ways has your Aims experience had an impact on your career and who you are today?
I think that Aims helped me gain the confidence I needed to keep moving forward with my career. It provided the ground work for me to become a better engineer because of the fundamentals that I was able to learn through attending Aims.
What advice do you have for current students who want to make the most out of their experience at Aims?
I would tell the currents students to try and meet as many people as they can and develop good relationships with their instructors. I would tell current students to work hard and stay focused, but have some fun along the way.
Why did you decide to study at Aims?
I've been involved with Aims my entire life. Starting with preschool in the Early
Childhood Education program, as well as College for Kids during my elementary school
years, Aims was always a part of my education. As a dropout from Greeley West, the
Aims High School Diploma Program (now Centennial BOCES High School) was the natural
option for me to get my high school diploma. After graduating, I enrolled at Aims
to get my Associates degree with the plan to go on to study Linguistics at a four
year university. I knew Aims was the right place to start my education, and I can't
imagine beginning my journey anywhere else. The staff, faculty, and students are a
true community of learners with the success of each student at the center of their
When did you attend Aims? What did you study at Aims?
I attended Aims from the Fall of 2010 to the Spring of 2012, and I obtained an Associates
degree in Liberal Arts. In my time at Aims, I focused on studies in French, Psychology,
English, and Creative Writing. I was one of the two inaugural graduates of the Honors
Program, and I had the unique opportunity to help shape the program for future students.
Did you pursue further education? If so, where? What did you study?
In my final semester at Aims, I was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley,
where I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Linguistics in the Spring of 2014. While
at Berkeley, I documented Lamoji, a language of Uganda, completed two internships
for the Boalt school of Law and the Panlex project, and taught a course on the Klingon
language from Star Trek.
How do you describe your career path since graduation?
After obtaining my BA, I worked for tech start up companies in San Francisco for three
and a half years. I started as a technical support agent, and left my most recent
company, SmartRecruiters, as an operations manager. I have since moved to Los Angeles,
where I'm working as a technical associate for a marketing firm in Santa Monica.
What is your favorite or funny memory of Aims?
Oh boy! While at Aims, I served as the Peer Educator for Sexual Health on ASACC. One
of my programs included tabling in the hallway of Ed Beaty hall with anatomical replicas
for demonstrating self-examinations for breast and testicular cancer. Needless to
say, the students who stopped at our table were more than amused, but by the time
they walked away, they had learned a life-saving skill. It was always my goal to bring
as much fun to my programs as possible. Nothing contributes to learning like a healthy
dose of laughter.
What was the most challenging or rewarding part of your Aims experience?
Aims had done so much for my education and my personal growth that I always tried
to give back in any way that I could. In my time at Aims, I connected with so many
people, building lifelong relationships with my advisors and teachers, and helping
my fellow students to success. I was honored to be given the opportunity to deliver
the commencement speech at the graduation ceremony in 2012. I could not have asked
for a more rewarding experience than to be able to give my fellow students some words
of encouragement as they moved into their bright futures, and to recognize Aims for
its incredible mission for education, and for all of the wonderful things it had done
In what ways has your Aims experience had an impact on your career and who you are today?
Without Aims, I would never have had the chance to go to university, learn the skills
that lead me to success, or met all of the wonderful people who provided support and
encouragement along the way. Aims truly made me the person I am today, and my time
at Aims will always stand out to me as the most important time in my education, my
career, and my personal growth. Not only did this wonderful school help me be the
best student I could be, it taught me about life, finances, relationships, leadership,
and so much more. Aims is more than just a school; it's a community.
What advice do you have for current students who want to make the most out of their experience at Aims?
Use every opportunity to get involved! Make the most out of your experience at Aims by joining a club, applying to ASACC, working a student job, or participating in the Honors Program. You never know who you'll meet or what you'll learn that will make all the difference in your career or your life.Above photos (top to bottom): 1. My mom, Robyn, and I on Berkeley campus after the graduation ceremony. May 2014 2. John Szabo, the City Librarian (my right), Mitch O'Farrell, City Council member for District 13 (my left), and I presenting a symbolic check to the Los Angeles City Council. April 2018. 3. The Cal Sailing Club in Berkeley, CA. I served as Vice Commodore for three years. July 2017. 4. My ESL student, Hyeyeon, and I in front of The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles. We bought a book to read together for English practice. June 2018.
For Valentine's Day, these alumni shared their Aims love stories.
McKayla and Holland Bellamy started with heart.
Holland and McKayla met in Ed Beaty Hall in 2013, passing each other on their way to class. They reconnected during a McKayla's tour of the TRiO and Core Impact Programs. Over the course of a year, they began studying together and peer reviewing each other's work until they started dating in 2014. They both graduated from Aims and went on to achieve our bachelors degrees - Holland at CU Boulder and McKayla at UNC. In December of 2016, Holland sent McKayla on a scavenger hunt that led her to Ed Beaty Hall - the place where they first met and the location of their first date. At this last stop, Holland proposed! They were married in August 2017 and are working towards their master's degrees.
"It's small interactions like the one in Ed Beaty Hall that we shared that bring people together for a life long lasting relationship. Thank you, Aims, for bringing us together. "
Garrett and Jessica Ladd started with heart.
Garrett and Jessica met at the Boulder Community Hospital where he worked as an EMT and she was an emergency room nurse. In 2016, Garrett graduated with a Paramedic Certificate and at the Aims EMS Program graduation ceremony, he had a surprise for everyone. He convinced all of his classmates that he needed to be the last to cross the stage. Garrett got on that stage and proposed to Jessica!
Garrett now works for UCHealth EMS based out of the Windsor Severance Fire Rescue and Jessica is an ER nurse at Boulder Community Hospital. They were married in November 2017.
Ron and Pat Fay started with heart.
In 1971, a psychology faculty member at Aims Community College hosted an encounter group for his students. Ron and Pat were strangers when they stepped into that encounter group, but at the end of the session, Ron asked for Pat’s phone number. Eight months later, they were married!
Both Ron and Pat ended up back at Aims in the 1980’s; Ron as an adjunct and later in Student Services and Pat in Institutional Research. Pat worked at Aims for 22 years and Ron retired from Aims in 2015. They have been married 46 years!
Alan and Audra Plaisance started with heart.
When Alan began school at Aims Community College, he had one goal – get his degree and move into his career. Little did he know that Aims would change his life more than he anticipated. After crossing paths with Audra many times - through English class, student government, and mutual connections - they discovered they had similar interests. One day Audra asked Alan to study with her and the rest was history. They both went on to complete teaching degrees and Master’s degrees. They are both currently elementary school teachers in northern Colorado. They have two children and have been married 12 years.
McAlister and Briana LaFrance started with heart.
“We met in our 20th Century World History Class in January 2013. On the first day of class our instructor Chris McColm had us introduce one another to the rest of our peers as a class exercise. After that, we became friends and then started dating. We both graduated from Aims Community College in December 2014. We bought our first home and got married in June 2016. We’ll always look back fondly at our early memories together at Aims!”
Hannah Pratt graduated from Aims in 2014 with an associate of Political Science. With 75 credits, a Distinguished Scholar Award and a place on the President’s List, Pratt transferred to the University of Northern Colorado and in May of 2016, she graduated with Bachelor's of Arts in Political Science and a minor in English.
Pratt was recently accepted into the Master of Art program for Modern and Post-Modern British and American Literature and Film at University College Cork in Ireland.
“Honestly, the only reason I feel I can afford grad school is because of Aims. I took 75 credits at Aims and all of them transferred to UNC. If I had… gone straight to CSU after high school, I would have over $30,000 in student debt right now. So I'm extremely grateful for Aims, and the opportunities that have come from it, like the possibility of going to Ireland.”
While at Aims, Pratt was an engaged and active member of creative writing groups and participated in the first Aims Arts Night, as well as worked closely with faculty member Kendra Griffin in the English department.
“There's no way I would have been accepted if it wasn't for [Kendra Griffin’s] letter of recommendation, her nomination for Distinguished Scholar and, most importantly, her instruction on my writing and literary skills. I thank her so much for all she’s done for me.”
From her application to University College Cork:
“I wish to be a part of this MA program because I want to better understand my world through the literature and film that define the culture. I want to sink deep into the words of Vonnegut, Shelley, Austen and stare right back at Alex’s forced-open eyes in A Clockwork Orange. In a world that moves closer to a post-truth reality of science, art, religion and politics, literature supposes to add meaning in scarcity.”
Keana Kaleikini grew up on the Navajo Nation Reservation in Fort Defiance, AZ. She was raised by a single mother who moved her family from the reservation during Kaleikini’s high school years.
“I did very poorly in high school due to unstable living conditions and initially going to college seemed like an impossibility at the time.”
Kaleikini was later able to go to Aims Community College part-time as a non-traditional student and graduated with an Associate of Liberal Arts. She then transferred to Fort Lewis College in Durango where she maintained full-time student status despite living through a disparaging divorce and raising an infant by herself. In the summer of 2016, Kaleikini was accepted to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Diversity Summer Internship Program for Undergraduates in Baltimore, MD.
During her internship, Kaleikini worked with the JHU’s Center for American Indian Health and conducted research with the Social and Behavioral Health team on tribal suicide prevention. “I examined the co-occurrence of alcohol use and suicidal behaviors within a specific tribe over time. It was really to reaffirm evidence that alcohol use is a risk factor for suicidal behavior, and to see the efficacy of suicide prevention programs implemented by the Center,” says Kaleikini. Other requirements of the internship were GRE prep courses, leadership sessions, seminars and mentorship by distinguished scholars at JHU. Kaleikini also completed weekly graduate-level assignments, wrote a full publishable research paper, created a scientific poster, presented at two poster sessions and gave two oral presentations.
In 2016, Kaleikini graduated from Fort Lewis College with a bachelor’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis in Environmental Health. After graduation, she accepted a position with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health as a research assistant. The Center for American Indian Health works in partnership with Native communities to raise health status, self-sufficiency and health leadership to the highest possible level through research, training, service, and education. They support Native communities in achieving optimum physical, mental and social well-being; autonomy over research and health service; and worldwide leadership in supporting other communities to overcome health inequalities.
“I couldn't feel more privileged to work with the renowned scholars of Johns Hopkins University.”
Kaleikini primarily assists with data management and analytics, but also works with training programs aimed at recruiting individuals interested in working in Native American health. The programs focus on building the skills necessary to lead culturally relevant public health interventions locally and nationally.
“I am hoping to complete my MPH, MSPH, or MHS with Johns Hopkins. I ultimately would like to receive my DrPH or PhD in the field of public health, as well. Because of the vast variety of options in Public Health, I am unsure of what my future focus will be. I imagine I would continue an education in biostatistics or epidemiology, and apply these skills to the field of Health Policy in order to advocate for progressive change.”
Art Terrazas first showed up at Aims in 1967 as one of the first students to register
for class during Aims’ inaugural year. Fifty years later and he is still part of the
After his years as a student, Terrazas earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northern Colorado and then came back to teach students at the school that inspired him to keep on learning.
Terrazas has taught adult education, English as a second language, citizenship, GED, ethnic studies and math, while impacting the lives of hundreds of students.
Officially retiring in 2006, Terrazas, just cannot stay away and to this day works as an adjunct faculty member.
Ray Martinez graduated from Aims with a degree in Criminal Justice in 1986. He began
his career in the Fort Collins Police Department in 1974 and retired in 1996. In 1980,
Martinez was the lead investigator in an international terrorist investigation that
became the subject of two published books: "Death Merchant" by Joseph Goulden and
"Man Hunt" by Peter Maas. Martinez has also written and published 12 of his own books.
Martinez has worked in information technology, consulting, and previously hosted a weekly radio talk show with KFKA Radio in Greeley. In 1999, Martinez was elected Mayor of Fort Collins and was re-elected in 2001 and 2003. In December 2005, Martinez was a White House appointee to the Defense Advisory Board for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Today he is a City Councilman for the City of Fort Collins and is working on his next book. You can learn more about Martinez at www.raymartinez.com.
Debbie Heine graduated from Aims in 1981 with an associate degree in accounting. Prior
to starting classes at Aims, Heine had been married and had worked in various office
positions until deciding that accounting was her real passion. She chose Aims because
the accounting program started students in the discipline with few required courses
outside of the field.
Heine says she was fortunate to have a good relationship with one of her accounting instructors, Betty Buxman, who also had a good relationship with her future employer, Anderson & Whitney, P.C.Ken Whitney, one of the original founders of the firm and an avid supporter of Aims, contacted Buxman in August of 1981 asking if she could recommend someone qualified to fill a para-professional position they had available. Heine interviewed with Whitney over the phone and a week later, on September 6th, 1981, she began her accounting career. Today, she is still with Anderson & Whitney as their Controller.
“The college’s relationship with the business community was, and I believe still continues to be, an integral part of the success of Aims and the students that attend."
Rick Klimek had attended Montana State for two years and worked in construction before
coming to Aims Community College. He decided to pursue a career as a police officer
when he stopped by an Aims booth at the Weld County Fair. He was milking cows with
his father-in-law at the time but says he always had an appreciation for the law and
had considered going to law school.
In 1985, the town of Windsor was using a Denver-based organization to pool and test applicants for police jobs. Klimek had just accepted a job as a reserve officer in Evans and was planning to become an animal control officer when the Windsor Chief hired him as a patrolman.
Klimek is now Windsor’s Chief of Police. He calls Windsor a garden spot in Colorado because of the quality of life and people here.
“We want to make sure that we get the troops the tools they need to do their jobs and allow them to do what they do best: help the community.”
Preston Stone graduated from Aims in 2009 with an Associate of Liberal Arts degree and certificates in Game Design and Animation. He was looking into several universities and vocational colleges for game design and wasn’t sure where he wanted to go.
Stone was on a general education path for most of his time at Aims and enrolled in a variety
of courses, but always focused on art. His last semester included all of the game
design and animation courses for the certificates. He says his last semester was
incredibly important to his skill set for his career path.
Now Stone is an illustrator for games and books in the fantasy sci-fi genre. In 2015, he was one of 12 artists to win the Illustrators of the Future Award, an international contest for amateur and emerging illustrators run by the estate of L. Ron Hubbard. Find out more about Stone and check out his work at www.prestonstoneart.com